Stream FAT CHANCE at nfb.ca

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NYC 1992!

L to R: Back – Rick Zakowich, Al Levine, Shelaugh Carter, Brian Appell, Dr. Moe Lerner, seated: Patricia Schwartz / crouched in front: Jeff McKay

Some thoughts from the filmmaker…

My goodness! – A film about being Fat !

Hmmm.  Well hold on – the year is 1990. Now don’t hurt yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to just forget but that isn’t what this page is about. So I’m trying to remember.

I had been editing John Paskievich’s film, ‘Sedna – the making of a myth’. I had yet to make a documentary of my own at this point. I had made several short experimental films and I was really more interested in exploring animation. But I did want to make a documentary film about the music business. I had pitched the idea to the National Film Board office in Winnipeg. They weren’t interested. I pitched it again. They still weren’t interested. Then I received a call from their producer who asked me if I would be interested in making a film about a guy who was 300 pounds who was planning to lose half of his weight.  I said no I wasn’t interested, what about my music business film? They weren’t interested, but I was interested. Weeks went by then the producer called me again and again he put it to me. Do you want to meet this guy? He was kind of insistent with me. So I said okay.

So I had coffee with this guy. His name was Rick. He was a nice guy. Very easy to like and I did like him. He was fun. Fun to be with, fun to talk to. He had such an easy way about him. But he was sick of being the person he was. He wanted to change himself, physically. He didn’t want to be the fat guy. He wanted to be the thin guy. So we talked about me making a film about him.., how would it work? How do we start?

I told the NFB producer that I would do it. So it started out as a half hour film. The first shoot was at the Red River Exhibition. Rick going through the exhibition grounds. Looking at the gambling tables, the fun house mirrors, the freak tent…

The day before the shoot I had gone to scout the ex. I had made a list of all of the shots I wanted. The night of the actual shoot I thought of the title on the way there, ‘Fat Chance’. I thought hmmm, that could work. We arrived. Noise lights people confusion. After we took the first shot I took my list of carefully thought out shots and put it in the garbage.

We shot for almost two years. Edited for almost three. I thought I would die. Rick and I ended up not talking. As it turns out a typical ending to a documentary. But the film ended up being sold around the world to virtually every television territory. It was one of the first feature length documentaries to be screened in first run Canadian theatres.

There are many scenes in this film I am not happy with. But Rick Zakowich and Moe Lerner are both sensational. They both were as honest as they could have been. Two great guys.

It has since become a popular thing to make a film or television about being fat and losing weight. Recently an Australian director and production company made a film which is essentially a rip off of this film. They even called it ‘Fat Chance’.

The National Film Board has recently cleaned up FAT CHANCE and made this film available online.

It really looks great. They did a fine job.

Many thanks to Amanda McConnell who worked as a writing consultant with me on this film and offered me tremendous support through the making of the film.

We all lost more hair than fat on this show.

NFB Executive Producer: Ches Yetman ( thank you Ches! )

NFB Producer: Joe Macdonald

Direction and Editing: Jeff McKay